You may be aware that there is a growing movement in many schools to reintroduce the concept of school pets as a way of teaching all children responsibility and providing a source of pleasure and learning.
Of particular interest is the current move towards “Reading Dogs” and “Therapy Dogs.” The former is based on research, which shows that many children who find reading difficult are more willing and able to read to the non-judgemental audience of an animal than they are to a human being! Therapy dogs are similarly being used as a source of comfort and relaxation for children and adults who may need “someone to talk to” or just someone who will accept them and offer comfort or a calming influence in their lives. There is much evidence that children who struggle with relationships or with managing their own emotions gain a great deal from spending time with a pet. With these ideas in mind, the school has decided to have a reading dog in school.
Our reading dog belongs to Miss E Taylor and is a Cockapoo, chosen for their mild temperament, caring nature and non-moulting coat. Miss Taylor will have sole ownership over Winston and will be responsible for the care of him outside of school: including general upkeep such as keeping up-to-date with worming and flea treatment, annual booster injections, trips to the vets, grooming etc. That being said, we would like the children to share in a sense of ownership and begin to take responsibility for the care and treatment of Winston in school.
The school still operates a ‘no dog’ policy. However, because Winston will be working in school, a specific risk assessment and training has been carried out. He is the only exception to this rule. In school, Winston will be on a lead at all times and will always be accompanied by a trained adult, thus allowing him to be on the school site.
It is our aim that all children across the school will have opportunities to have contact and quality time with Winston: however, we will begin this process by introducing him into school slowly, so that he does not become overwhelmed, starting with Year 6.
Winston has been through three training processes: with a well recognised 1:1 dog trainer, group sessions with a dog behaviouralist and a Dogs Trust training course. He continues to attend training to further his commands and reinforce his previous training.
I can assure you that our dog will not be around the school off the lead and will only have access to restricted areas, but it is sensible to be aware of everyone’s needs. We are very mindful that introducing a dog into the school setting should not be a distraction to the children’s learning and for this to enhance our school ethos and the experiences we offer our children.
A risk assessment will be available on our website before the dog arrives in school, which will give you some indication of the amount of thought that has gone into this pilot programme.